- Efforts to step-up camapign to end Fistula will increase fourfold according to first-ever report by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon.
Campaign to End Fistula has announced a fourfold increase in the number of countries it serves and according to its annual report, campaign now works to prevent and treat fistula in over 45 countries in Africa, Asia and Arab States. When it was launched in 2003, it covered 12 countries.
Secretary-General's report on "supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula", issued in response to a request by General Assembly, outlines efforts to end obstetric fistula and help achieve Millennium Development Goal 5, including strengthening health systems and increasing funding.
At least 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region are said to be living with obstetric fistula, a hole in birth canal caused by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention. Every year, according to report, some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop, with severe social and medical consequences for women affected.
"The consequences of fistula are life shattering," said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). "The baby often dies and the woman is left with chronic incontinence, greatly diminishing her prospects for work and family life."
While obstetric fistula is uncommon in countries where births are attended by skilled medical workers and emergency obstetric care is available, and where women can exercise their right to determine the number and spacing of their children, it occurs disproportionately among poor girls and women, especially those living far from medical services and with lack of access to family planning, UN report points.
Launched by UNFPA and partners, global Campaign to End Fistula aims at eliminating fistula by 2015 by preventing it and restoring health and dignity of women living with its consequences.
Campaign's annual report, released yesterday, shows that it is active in 45 countries and has supported treatment for over 7,800 women. In 2007 alone, campaign provided training for more than 500 professionals in fistula treatment and care and strengthened capacity to provide fistula treatment in 89 health centres. Since 2003, campaign has raised more than $25 million in contributions and educated tens of thousands of individuals, community leaders and policymakers about fistula.
"Because of poverty, women suffering from fistula lack the means to cover the full cost of their surgery," Dr Dolores Nembunzu, a fistula surgeon in Democratic Republic of Congo is quoted, adding: "Through advocacy we can reach the women who are hidden, and give them support and access to information about treatment."
While affecting the most vulnerable members of society, fistula is also said to touch on reproductive health and rights, gender equality, poverty and adolescent reproductive health. Like maternal death, fistula is almost entirely preventable, but its persistence signals that health systems are currently failing to meet women's needs, report stated.
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